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Portland Is Among the Cities Ending Mask Mandates This Weekend, But Restaurant and Other Business Owners Are Conflicted

Portland Is Among the Cities Ending Mask Mandates This Weekend, But Restaurant and Other Business Owners Are Conflicted

Even as the Biden Administration is extending mask mandates to at least April 18th for airplanes and all other public forms of transportation, individual states are getting ready for mandates to be lifted amid an uncertain future as the country hits the two-year anniversary of the original COVID lockdowns.

Oregon will lift its indoor mask mandate once again on Saturday, making it one of the last states in the country to do so. Oregon first lifted its indoor mask mandate in June 2021, followed by a spike in cases; in response, Gov. Kate Brown re-instated the mask mandate in August, right as the Delta variant was beginning to gain ground in Oregon. Despite grumbles from constituents, Gov. Brown held firm all through the winter Omicron outbreaks and kept her eye on COVID case numbers in her state instead. In neighboring Washington State, Gov. Jay Inslee is also lifting the mask mandates this weekend. The state’s more liberal cities are surrounded by red counties, where many eschewed the mandates and refused vaccinations, including one candidate running for Congress in Washington’s 3rd district, just across the river from Portland, Oregon.

While restaurants were among the hardest-hit businesses during the pandemic, the end of the mask mandates is both a relief and a worry to their owners, managers, and other staff. When the mask mandate was first lifted last summer, the state allowed private businesses to set their own masking requirements; many restaurants decided to continue to require masks. Those that did, however, reported higher numbers of customer attacks, from diners who felt entitled to enter the business maskless. Starting Saturday, businesses will be able to set their own mask requirements, but after two full years of the COVID-19 pandemic, many business owners in Portland are excited to lift their mask requirements, relying on other safety measures like proof of vaccination checks and heightened sanitation efforts. Plenty of restaurants are planning on following the state’s guidance of no longer requiring masks, but will continue to check vaccination cards at the door.

However, scientists and other health experts warn these mask mandates are coming too soon, as they did last summer, as the virus continues to mutate. As of Friday, the daily COVID death rate in America stood at roughly 1600 per day, which is a lower number than at its various peaks. But the daily number of new cases is still extraordinarily high, with the CDC reporting over 40,000 new cases on Thursday.

 

 

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